Tiny Beautiful Things brings together a group of people whose lives are broken and confused and sets them all to work mending the brokenness. It’s about love and loss and how those echo and reverberate through the years.
Tiny Beautiful Things put me in mind of this song:
There is a crack, a crack in everything–Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”
That’s how the light gets in.
Based on the novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed, the series tells the story of Clare, played almost equally by Kathryn Hahn at age 49 (not 50!) and Sarah Pidgeon as 20-something Clare.
There are even more actors at different ages as Clare, but the series belongs to these two. They both bring tremendous honesty and truth to their character.
Clare was such a colossal mess in the first episode, I thought the situation was hopeless. But as we get to know what’s happening and see into her past, the story settles into less chaos.
Clare is a brilliant writer who doesn’t write. Her life is a shambles. Her husband, Danny (Quintin Blair, with SteVonté Hart as young Danny) has thrown her out of the house for giving her brother Lucas $15,000 of their daughter’s college fund. We mostly see the young Lucas (Owen Painter) as part of Clare’s memories. It takes a long time to learn why Lucas needed the money.
Clare’s daughter, Rae (the excellent Tanzyn Crawford), is going through her own issues. She’s worried her parents will divorce, she’s a mixed race girl in a mostly white preppy high school, and she’s in love with a girl. She deals with all that by lashing out at her mother.
Clare has writing friends. Her lifelong bestie, Amy (Michaela Watkins) sticks by her through everything. Another of her writing friends turns over his job as the advice columnist “Dear Sugar” to Clare. Messed up, emotional, wrecked Clare writing an advice column! Yes. And, my heavens, she is so good at it. The woman can WRITE!
Adult Clare is going through all this, while still processing the years-old death of her mother, Frankie (Merritt Wever). The timeline jumps back and forth between Clare’s youth and her early family life with her mother and brother to the present. The letters she answers as Sugar tie back to events from her past and stitch together a tapestry of memory, pain, love, anger, lust, grief, and every other human emotion.
Clare’s real need isn’t so much to repair her relationship with her husband and her child as it is to come to terms with her grief over her mother’s sudden death from cancer.
The cast is excellent and the writing explores every nuance in outstanding detail. It’s an superlative production in every way. The series was directed by Desiree Akhavan and Rachel Lee Goldenberg. Tiny Beautiful Things used all women writers and mostly women producers. It’s on Hulu and definitely a must see series about how the light gets in.